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Economic opportunities on the rise in the Duluth area

By CHRIS OLWELL
DCN Reporter

Alright. So there are exactly 50 million organizations in or near Duluth dedicated to attracting and retaining a young population by combating the notion that Duluth has no jobs. That’s right. 50 million.

The issue of economic development has received much attention from mayoral candidates Charlie Bell and Don Ness. They have been talking about their respective plans to revitalize Duluth’s economy in order to attract and retain a young population.

Duluth’s percentage of 24-35 year-olds, at 12 percent, lags behind really exciting places like Dubuque, IA and Grand Forks, ND.

This lack of jobs is a huge problem, right?

“I think if gets hyped up a lot in the media,? said Julie Munger, Community Initiatives Officer for the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation. And with baby boomers starting to reach retirement age, Munger said, “it’s just gonna get better.?

Jeff Borling dismissed the perception that there are no jobs for young people in Duluth as “a myth.?

“The way they describe it, it sounds more dramatic than it actually is,? Borling said as he produced a promotional leaflet proclaiming “75,000 job openings is worth shouting about!? Over the next decade boomer retirement is expected to open up more positions than could actually be filled by the generation now entering the workforce. “There just aren’t enough of us.?

Attracting youth is very important to the city’s economic health, Munger said. Cities that can’t retain young people lose their tax bases and school funding. Duluth is trying to create a welcoming and inclusive culture similar to that of Austin, Texas, Munger said. The world is changing, and the people the city hopes to attract are “not your parents’ workforce.?

“Some people work better in the middle of the night than when society tells us to,? said Munger.

As previously noted
, Patrick Nelson, who runs a variety store of vintage and retro stuff out of his house, is a night person. When he and his wife Karen started Obscuriousities last winter they took advantage of a grant from the Northeast Entrepreneur Fund, a nonprofit organization that helps people start or expand small businesses.

The Nelsons took a training course provided by Northeast Entrepreneur Fund, which was helpful. More importantly, the organization also provides in-store consultations to help with details like credit card readers and display organization, which Karen appreciated.

“I didn’t want it to be a garage sale in here,? she said. “I wanted it to be a store.?

Businesses like Obscuriousities are called micro businesses, said Jim Skurla, acting director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the Labovitz School of Business and Economics. If they can find a niche in the market they can create a more seamless economy.

“They can do some stuff that maybe the big guys can’t do,? Skurla said.

Micros like Obscuriousities aren’t going to have much of an impact on the economy overall, Skurla said. But by creating a business healthy enough to allow them to be self-sufficient, the Nelsons and others like them are freeing up jobs in a city where unemployment rates are typically among the highest in the state and job creation is an obvious priority.

In fact, the Nelsons are exactly the kind of people Duluth is trying to attract. Creative. Enterprising. Involved in the community.

Young.